Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Caramelized Onions

I'm a little obsessed lately with caramelizing onions. It's such an easy thing to do--just takes time, that's all--and it adds so much punch to savory dishes. We use a LOT of onions at our house (much to Elijah's dismay--though if he doesn't actually see or notice them, he'll eat them just fine). And taking the extra minutes to caramelize them first makes everything better. When the natural sugars in the onions break down and the onions turn deep brown, it produces such wonderful flavor.
Start out by melting/heating some fat over medium heat in a skillet, enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan. I usually use butter, sometimes a combination of butter and olive oil. Then dump in your onions--sliced, diced, it doesn't really matter. But use more than you think, as they will really cook down. Salt them and start sauteing.

After about five or six minutes, they're starting to turn a tiny bit brown and translucent:

Watch carefully, stirring occasionally. If they start to stick to the pan or get really brown, add more oil or butter. Fat is your friend! I promise you, good, real fats are not making you fat; processed carbs are. Don't be afraid of real butter, especially from healthy, pastured cows (we love Kerrygold--the most beautiful yellow color, not all anemic like regular butter, and soooo yummy).

Another ten minutes, and they look like this:

You could definitely use the onions in anything at this point; they are tender. But if you can keep going, it will get so much better. Here they are another seven minutes later:

Getting closer, but be patient. Give the onions another five or six minutes:

Almost there, but don't quit yet! Keep stirring, turn the heat down and/or add fat if you need to, and in another 5-10 minutes you'll have this: 

YUM. I could just about eat those with a spoon.

Add them to your soups to give added depth to the flavor (particularly baked potato soup). Keep them in the fridge and throw some in your scrambled eggs in the morning. Stir some into a bowl of steamed green beans and your side dish goes from boring to mouth-watering.

Here's the difference, side by side, between cooked onions you can use...and caramelized onions you will love: 

OK, so my food photography skills leave something to be desired. But I promise you they taste divine.

This is such an easy way to make your food a little more impressive, add a little pizzazz. And it's so easy! About half an hour total is all it takes--if you plan ahead, you can have them going while you're doing other dinner prep. You can even do a big batch all at once and freeze them if you want. Try some in your favorite Thanksgiving dishes, and you'll never go back if you can help it.  

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